Meissen coffee pot and cover

Meissen coffee pot and cover

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TITLE: Meissen coffeepot and cover
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
OBJECT NAME: Coffeepot
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: ca. 1725-1730
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1982.0796.07ab
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “64” in gold (gold painter’s number); incised cross.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1943.
This coffeepot is from the Smithsonian’s Hans Syz Collection of Meissen Porcelain. Dr. Syz (1894-1991) began his collection in the early years of World War II, when he purchased eighteenth-century Meissen table wares from the Art Exchange run by the New York dealer Adolf Beckhardt (1889-1962). Dr. Syz, a Swiss immigrant to the United States, collected Meissen porcelain while engaged in a professional career in psychiatry and the research of human behavior. He believed that cultural artifacts have an important role to play in enhancing our awareness and understanding of human creativity and its communication among peoples. His collection grew to represent this conviction.
The invention of Meissen porcelain, declared over three hundred years ago early in 1709, was a collective achievement that represents an early modern precursor to industrial chemistry and materials science. The porcelains we see in our museum collections, made in the small town of Meissen in the German States, were the result of an intense period of empirical research. Generally associated with artistic achievement of a high order, Meissen porcelain was also a technological achievement in the development of inorganic, non-metallic materials.
The circular reserves framed in purple luster, iron-red enamel, and gold accentuate the rotund belly of this coffeepot with its generous scroll-shaped handle. In one reserve there is a Kauffahrtei (merchant) scene, and in the other a winter scene, both of which are characteristic of the work of seventeenth-century Dutch artists. At Meissen these subjects are associated with the work of Christian Friedrich Herold, although it is unlikely that he painted this coffeepot, but he may have introduced winter scenes to the Meissen painting division after the work of Jan van de Velde II (ca. 1593-1641), a prolific printmaker who specialized in landscape subjects; the wind-blown tree bare of leaves is emblematic of van de Velde’s works. A horse-drawn sledge struggles up an incline to the left of the scene with a windmill beyond, while another sledge stands loaded with passengers about to depart. In the foreground a man negotiates the icy surface in a pair of skates.
The Kauffahrtei scene features three well-dressed merchants in foreign and European clothing possibly haggling over the price of goods piled behind them. Off-shore several small craft and larger sailing vessels stand at anchor. On the cover there is a continuous harbor scene of men working on the shoreline while others stand looking out towards the sea.
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Enamel painters specializing in landscapes, harbor, and river scenes with staffage (people and animals) were paid more than those who painted flowers, fruits and underglaze blue patterns. Most painters received pay by the piece rather than a regular wage or salary. The circular frames for the reserves were the work of another specialist in the painting division, and yet another worker completed the gold ornamentation and polishing.
On the Meissen painter Christian Friedrich Herold see Pietsch, U., 2011, Early Meissen Porcelain: the Wark Collectionfrom the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, p.38.
On Dutch printmaking see Goddard, S. H., 1984, Sets and Series: Prints from the Low Countries
On the painting division at Meissen see Rückert, R., 1990, Biographische Daten der Meissener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts, pp. 134-136.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp.106-107.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1725-1730
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels, gold, and purple luster (overall color)
waterside scenes (overall style)
blue (overall color)
overall: 8 5/8 in; 21.9075 cm
overall: 8 5/8 in x 6 1/4 in x 5 in; 21.9075 cm x 15.875 cm x 12.7 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
collector/donor number
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
Domestic Furnishings
The Hans C. Syz Collection
Meissen Porcelain: The Hans Syz Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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